Selected departures available from February to November 2020
To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the recent histories of India and Britain are inextricably intertwined. This tour will highlight how this relationship developed and finally evolved into Indian independence.
We’ll visit Calcutta, the capital of India during the time that it was governed by the mighty East India Company and discover how it developed its economic success with the famous tea estates in Darjeeling. We will also see the negative consequences, with the remains of the siege of the British Residency in Lucknow. Along the way, we’ll also visit India’s oldest city, Varanasi, the Holy City for Hindus, who come to bathe in the waters of the Ganges.
On this inspiring tour, we’ll also travel on the famous Indian Railway system, the largest in the world, en route to Varanasi. Spectacularly located along the Ganges, this spiritual city is known for its bustling atmosphere and the sights and sounds along the city’s famous bathing ‘ghats’, where it sometimes seems the whole of India has come to wash in the holy ‘Mother Ganges’. We’ll take an exciting rickshaw ride through the teeming streets and enjoy the sights from our boat ride on the river. Next morning, we will wake by sunrise to enjoy another peaceful boat ride along the soft, misty water.
Towards the end of the tour, you will be transported to tea lovers’ paradise; Darjeeling. Taking the famed steam ‘Toy Train’ from the famous hill station and epicentre of tea production, marvel at the peaks of the Himalayas, which can be seen in the distance. Be sure to rise early and join us at Tiger Hill, for the most memorable sunrises on a clear day. We will also head to a nearby Buddhist monastery in Ghoom, to understand their modest and peaceful way of life.
Of course, this is a great chance to try the authentic cuisine of the India, too. With a variety of stop offs and well-located hotels, you will be able to delight in some regional Indian dishes on most evenings. With New Delhi famously home to butter chicken and macher jhol (spicy fish curry) from Calcutta, there is plenty of variety for all tastes. Why not try some incredible Indian sweets, such as rosogulla (milk-based dessert) or a dhokla (a sweet made from chickpeas)?
This incredible trip really does bring together some fascinating treasures of the country, whether it be the remarkable history and architecture, the memorable landscapes or the amazing methods of transport, waiting to take you on an unforgettable journey.
You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight direct flight to Delhi.
After a short rest we commence our guided tour of New Delhi. The city centre, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, clearly reflects the Raj legacy with its wide, tree-lined avenues, with the former Viceroy’s residence, now the Presidential Palace at its centre. You’ll see the imposing Rajpath, India Gate and the Parliament building.
We stay one night at the five-star Andaz Aerocity with breakfast.
This morning we take the short flight from Delhi to Lucknow. On arrival visit the poignant site of the old British Residency, with the remains of the buildings still showing signs of the siege during the ‘Indian Mutiny’. Stay for two nights at the five-star Taj hotel.
This morning we visit one of the most famous schools in India during the Raj: La Martiniere College, still going strong after 174 years! Occupying almost 200 acres, the school became famous during the siege of Lucknow, when the boys and staff played an active role in the defence of the Residency – it thus became the only school in the world to have been awarded a British battle honour. In the afternoon we’ll meet the charming local Nawab in his antique-filled home.
Enjoy a journey on Indian Railways today as we travel to Varanasi. Nestling by the Ganges, Varanasi’s old city is a labyrinth of tangled alleys, shops and workshops, through which we take an exciting rickshaw ride to the river. Buzzing with pilgrims, the banks are lined by high, centuries-old palaces, with descending steps or ‘ghats’ down to the riverside. Here the faithful wash themselves in the holy waters while brightly-clad Brahmin priests practise yoga and meditation.
Boarding a small boat, we explore this incredible waterfront. As dusk turns to evening, we witness the Aarti, one of the most impressive Hindu ceremonies, as large crowds chant and pray, setting small candles adrift on water in memory of loved-ones. You will also probably see some of Varanasi’s famous funeral pyres, where mourners gather and whole riverbank glows with flickering yellow as the deceased receive instant enlightenment.
We stay two nights at the four-star Taj Ganges with breakfast.
We rise early to have another boat ride on the Ganges, as the soft morning sun illuminates the river through the mist.
We then drive to nearby Sarnath, where 2,500 years ago, after gaining enlightenment himself, the Lord Buddha gave his first sermon, founding at this spot one of the most enduring of world religions. We visit the 1,700-year old Dhamekh Stupa, towering 31m high and said to mark the spot where Buddha revealed his Eightfold Path to Nirvana and see a green marble coffin allegedly containing his relics. The afternoon is at leisure your hotel.
Today we fly to Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is now known. Located on the banks of the Hooghly River in the lower Ganges delta, it was made the capital of India by the British East India Company, before it was moved to New Delhi. Now the capital of West Bengal, this 350-year old metropolis is a major centre for drama, art, literature and music and is the heart and soul of eastern India. It is surprising the sheer number of grand Victorian buildings which still survive and are in daily use to this day!
Our hotel for two nights is the excellent five-star Taj Bengal with breakfast.
This morning, as the city awakes, we start on a fascinating guided walking tour of the colonial centre of this great city. We’ll walk by the neo-gothic High Court, dating from 1875 and the famous Writers’ Building, built as the Indian headquarters of the East India Company. We’ll also visit Mother Teresa’s home and take a ride on one of Calcutta’s iconic trams! The two main Anglican churches in the city are St John’s and the much larger St Paul’s Cathedral, which we will also visit.
In the afternoon we’ll tour the imposing all-white Victoria Memorial, full of paintings and fascinating memorabilia from the Raj.
We fly from Calcutta to the small city of Bagdogra from where we drive to Darjeeling, the famous hill station and centre of tea production. The city is built along the hills and ridges of the Himalayan foothills and has a pleasantly cooler climate than the plains below.
We stay three nights with dinner at the unique Windamere Heritage Hotel, which confounds any official classification!
A wonderful experience awaits today, as we walk along the ‘Mall’ and board the local steam-driven ‘toy train’ for a ride around the Darjeeling Hills. The engines are lovingly cared for by an enthusiastic group of Indian Railways engineers and you will also be able to visit the engine shed next to the station.
This afternoon, we visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which charts the exploration of the Himalayas, including Hilary &Tenzing’s successful attempt.
Very early risers can join the visit to Tiger Hill to see the sunrise across the Himalayas – on a clear day you should be able to see the 3rd, 4th and 5th highest peaks in the world, as well as the Indo-China border.
We’ll continue with a visit to the Buddhist monastery at Ghoom before returning to our hotel for a well-earned breakfast!
Later, we visit a local tea estate and factory, to see how our favourite drink is produced.
We drive back to Bagdogra for the flight to Delhi where we stay again at the five-star Andaz Aerocity Hotel with breakfast.
Fly back home to the UK, arriving later the same day.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths may be uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights. Therefore, this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. In the tropics temperatures and humidity levels will also be quite high for most of the year. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for India at least a month before departure.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All British passport holders require a visa for India. Please ensure that you have at least two empty pages in your passport and that your passport is valid for a minimum of 190 days from the time of submitting your visa application. At the time of departure you will be able to travel as long as both the passport and the visa are valid.
Personal applications: to apply for an Indian visa please visit www.vfsglobal.com/india/uk where you can apply, pay online and schedule an appointment to submit your application in person at your nearest centre, dependent on your home address.
Online applications: British passport holders are now eligible to apply for an e-visa online, you must ensure your passport is machine readable and has a biometric chip (without this you may be denied entry into India). The cost of a single entry tourist e-visa is US$100.00 and will be converted into pounds by your bank. The website to apply for the e-visa is: indianvisaonline.gov.in. Here you will find all the information to assist you with the completion of your application.
Postal applications: you must either apply and pay online, print off the completed application form, payment confirmation and submit by post; or alternatively, you must apply online, print off the completed application and submit along with payment by postal order. Personal cheques are NOT accepted. In both cases you must submit your passport along with a self-addressed stamped envelope and two, 2x2” passport photos to:
India Visa Application Centre (West London),
The Vista Centre,
First Floor – Part A
Full details of costs, application form and addresses can be found on www.vfsglobal.com/india/uk, email: email@example.com or tel: 0905 7570045 (calls cost 95p per minute).
Visa fees are subject to change without notice and non-refundable.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in requirements after this time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to travel.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Delhi - Indira Gandhi International Airport||Delhi||10 mins||Delhi||Delhi - Indira Gandhi International Airport||10 mins|